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State finals foes rich in history

The opponents of three Spokane-area teams headed to Gridiron Classic on Saturday in the Tacoma Dome have brilliant football pedigrees.

Ferris foe Skyline is in its eighth state tournament since 2000 and fifth title game in the past six years. The Spartans are two-time defending champions (3A in 2007, 4A last year) and have four state titles and a second place overall.

West Valley’s opponent, Lynden, is seeking its third 2A state title in four years. The Lions also have two championships and a second place in 1A.

Colfax plays Adna, a team making its 16th state appearance, with a championship in 1989 and four other trips to the semifinals.

But the resumes of the locals are just as impressive.

The Saxons have been to three straight semifinals in becoming the fourth Greater Spokane League team to reach the title game. Last year they lost 24-21 to Skyline in the semis at Albi Stadium.

West Valley set a school record with 13 wins in earning the Eagles’ fourth trip to the championship game. And unbeaten Colfax is in its fourth finale as well among 15 state trips.

“I was on the phone with Adna coach Casey Johnson a bit ago,” said Colfax coach Mike Morgan, “and said, ‘we’re just privileged to be invited to the ball.’ ”

Morgan said it rankles him that society dismisses any sports season if its team isn’t No. 1 as though it didn’t exist.

“I was an assistant in 1997 when we finished second and remember that feeling,” he said. “It was like we’d wiped off 12 wonderful wins.”

And that’s what he will remind his players of as they enter their final week of football. His advice stands up well to all three finalists. Nobody guarantees you a win, he said. Go out and play your hardest; it’s been a successful season win or lose.

“Twelve great teams are going in,” he said. “Six will be thrilled for a lifetime. The others will be questioning themselves until they have false teeth, are 80 and in a nursing home.”

Hate-love relationship

West Valley assistant football coach Doug Semler was a senior on the 1983 Eagles semifinalists who lost to Sedro Woolley (then coached by Shadle Park’s Mark Hester) at Albi.

Thus, he was apprehensive about their return Saturday evening to the same stadium in the semifinals again. By game’s end, Semler was savoring the 24-17 victory and trip to the Tacoma Dome for a shot Saturday at the 2A state title.

When he played, WV was unbeaten in 11 games, but was baffled by the Cubs’ full-house T-formation misdirection and lost 17-12. The year after he graduated, the Eagles reached the finals.

“I hated it until tonight,” said Semler of his return to Albi. “But I love it now.”

The numbers are in

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has released its enrollment figures and classification breakdowns.

The breakdown would have 66 schools each in classes 4A, 3A and 2A, 65 in 1A and 62 each in 2B and 1B.

But it won’t be until Dec. 15 that the classifications become official. That is when 59 undecided schools must declare whether they will opt up. Ten others have already done so.

Based upon the three-grade enrollment break point of 1,285, four Greater Spokane League schools – Lewis and Clark, Central Valley, Ferris and Rogers – fall within Class 4A. Six – Mead and University (both among the undecided), Shadle Park, Mt. Spokane, North Central and East Valley – are 3A. Gonzaga Prep is 2A in size and also undecided.

Also, of the 15 Columbia Basin Big Nine schools, eight are 4A, seven are 3A by count. Eastmont and Pasco (undecided) are on the 4A-3A bubble according to the report. Kennewick and Southridge are 3A and undecided about whether they will opt up.

If every team in state stayed within its classification, the east region would have 12 4A and 14 3A schools. But the opt ups could skew things.

In other classifications, Colville, on the 2A-1A bubble, and Riverside would move down based on numbers. Valley Christian School will move to 1A.

Basketball begins

Ferris defensive back Riley Stockton, one of several Saxons who also play basketball, said following the football semifinal victory that Saxons basketball coach Don Van Lierop was probably tearing his hair out.

Lost in the shuffle of Spokane-area football successes is the fact that the basketball season begins tonight.

Good news for Ferris is that the Greater Spokane League has changed its schedule. Rather than playing all 20 games in league, for the first time in a decade teams will have five or six non-league games.

Rogers boys are at Cheney, Gonzaga Prep at Coeur d’Alene, and Mt. Spokane hosts Lake City in Greg Hannan’s debut tonight.

Even games among GSL teams on Dec. 8 and Dec. 11 won’t count in the standings, said league secretary Randy Ryan, with league play officially beginning Dec. 15.

Class 3A teams play each other twice and the six 4A teams once for a total of 14 league counters. 4A teams play each other twice and 3A teams once for 15 league contests.